Guest Opinions

No place for bias, hate at Idaho State University and Pocatello

Idaho State University has been informed that approximately 50 of our students from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have been victims of off-campus home burglaries over a period of several weeks. To the best of our knowledge, all of these burglaries have been reported to the Pocatello Police Department, who are actively investigating these crimes. In some cases, personal documents were stolen and hateful and hurtful messages were left behind. These burglaries are in addition to the vandalism of 17 vehicles, including some belonging to international students, on July 17, 2015, along the Bartz Way roadway from Schubert Heights to the McIntosh Manor area. The Pocatello Police Department apprehended the perpetrator. Although recently reported on some social media, incidents of physical abuse and harm targeted at Kuwaiti and Saudi students have not been verified or reported to the Pocatello Police Department.

As we can all imagine, home invasions invoke fear, sadness, anger and bewilderment. Our hearts go out to these affected students as well as their peers, who worry that they may be next. These students are far away from home and family and have chosen to attend Idaho State University for its reputation for high quality educational programs in a safe environment. As a result of these crimes, some of our students are seriously considering leaving ISU and Pocatello. This would be a devastating loss for our community and would earn us an undeserved reputation for discrimination, bias and racism.

As you know, the safety and security and well-being, both physical and mental, of our students are our pre-eminent focus. Any harm to our students impacts all of us negatively by diminishing the quality of our life because how can any one of us feel safe if others are in jeopardy? Our ability to attract and retain students who seek a college degree will be impacted because any crimes against students will discourage students from Idaho, the U.S. and the world from enrolling here. And lastly, harm to any person impacts our humanity.

Mayor Brian Blad has been meeting regularly with international students throughout his tenure to ensure that they feel welcomed and any concerns are heard. In Pocatello we care about our neighbors — and we’re all neighbors.

Let us join together to demonstrate to the world that Idaho State University and the city of Pocatello are communities whose 21st century values reflect intellectual and creative endeavors and achievements, care and concern for the individual; and appreciation and support for diversity in its many forms.

Most importantly, please help us reach out to our international students, especially, our students from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Let them know that we want them to stay. In the ISU Student Handbook, I remarked that, “In addition to being scholars in the classroom and laboratories, our students are making a difference both here and abroad.” Our international students will carry messages home about what America and Americans are like. Many will become important business and civic leaders who will influence others’ perceptions of America.

If you are a student and need assistance, please contact the Vice President for Student Affairs Office. Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and the International Programs Office are here to assist and support all of our students.

Arthur Vailas is president of Idaho State University. He posted this online letter to the ISU community, faculty and staff this week.

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